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Red Hanrahan
by [?]

It was a year after that, there were men of the village of Cappaghtagle sitting by the fire in a house on the roadside, and Red Hanrahan that was now very thin and worn and his hair very long and wild, came to the half-door and asked leave to come in and rest himself; and they bid him welcome because it was Samhain night. He sat down with them, and they gave him a glass of whiskey out of a quart bottle; and they saw the little inkpot hanging about his neck, and knew he was a scholar, and asked for stories about the Greeks.

He took the Virgil out of the big pocket of his coat, but the cover was very black and swollen with the wet, and the page when he opened it was very yellow, but that was no great matter, for he looked at it like a man that had never learned to read. Some young man that was there began to laugh at him then, and to ask why did he carry so heavy a book with him when he was not able to read it.

It vexed Hanrahan to hear that, and he put the Virgil back in his pocket and asked if they had a pack of cards among them, for cards were better than books. When they brought out the cards he took them and began to shuffle them, and while he was shuffling them something seemed to come into his mind, and he put his hand to his face like one that is trying to remember, and he said: ‘Was I ever here before, or where was I on a night like this?’ and then of a sudden he stood up and let the cards fall to the floor, and he said, ‘Who was it brought me a message from Mary Lavelle?’

‘We never saw you before now, and we never heard of Mary Lavelle,’ said the man of the house. ‘And who is she,’ he said, ‘and what is it you are talking about?’

‘It was this night a year ago, I was in a barn, and there were men playing cards, and there was money on the table, they were pushing it from one to another here and there–and I got a message, and I was going out of the door to look for my sweetheart that wanted me, Mary Lavelle.’ And then Hanrahan called out very loud: ‘Where have I been since then? Where was I for the whole year?’

‘It is hard to say where you might have been in that time,’ said the oldest of the men, ‘or what part of the world you may have travelled; and it is like enough you have the dust of many roads on your feet; for there are many go wandering and forgetting like that,’ he said, ‘when once they have been given the touch.’

‘That is true,’ said another of the men. ‘I knew a woman went wandering like that through the length of seven years; she came back after, and she told her friends she had often been glad enough to eat the food that was put in the pig’s trough. And it is best for you to go to the priest now,’ he said, ‘and let him take off you whatever may have been put upon you.’

‘It is to my sweetheart I will go, to Mary Lavelle,’ said Hanrahan; ‘it is too long I have delayed, how do I know what might have happened her in the length of a year?’

He was going out of the door then, but they all told him it was best for him to stop the night, and to get strength for the journey; and indeed he wanted that, for he was very weak, and when they gave him food he eat it like a man that had never seen food before, and one of them said, ‘He is eating as if he had trodden on the hungry grass.’ It was in the white light of the morning he set out, and the time seemed long to him till he could get to Mary Lavelle’s house. But when he came to it, he found the door broken, and the thatch dropping from the roof, and no living person to be seen. And when he asked the neighbours what had happened her, all they could say was that she had been put out of the house, and had married some labouring man, and they had gone looking for work to London or Liverpool or some big place. And whether she found a worse place or a better he never knew, but anyway he never met with her or with news of her again.